2016-09-01 - No More Illusions

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Title: No More Illusions

In the end, despite the hopes of nearly everyone who knew the two of them, they just could not get along. Mai Tokiha and Mami Tomoe have argued, and clashed, and built up resentment for months...and the illusion of civility can no longer remain.


Mami Tomoe, Mai Tokiha


Shibuya Shopping Ward

OOC - IC Date:

November 17, 2014 - 09/01/2016

<Pose Tracker> Mami Tomoe [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

The cold autumn breeze rustles between gaps in buildings, rustling displays, decorative plants, and stylish coats alike. The fall of night has only made it chillier, but there are people who still get out in it. There are places to go at all hours of the day it seems sometimes, even if it's most iconically busy during the day. But Mami Tomoe has not been spending most of her time in its busies squares.

As usual she hunts down dark alleys, hidden places, where few find themselves for long. She hasn't even found herself there for the last while; no, she's been busy in a place that is here, but not here. That changes...

About now.

The Labyrinth fades around her, as the blonde Puella Magi kneels down to pick up a small gray-and-black object, maybe more like silver than not. She's still dressed for battle, her sleeves ruffled amidst the wind and her drills bobbing behind her.

Another down. And this one, a full Witch.

The white and yellow of her attire make her relatively easy to spot near the street proper.

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Yamiyo no Prologue - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KsPG1tUmB74

Ohtori Academy, of course, has a curfew. The trains running back to the bridge might be swift, but crossing the bridge itself takes time, and those tasked with standing vigil at the island have little mercy. This late at night, only the most brazen are trying to return to the dorms - and although demoted, Haruka Suzushiro is sure to have little mercy when a certain fiery-haired highschooler finally shows her face.

She'll be kept waiting. Mai took a train somewhere else.

"I've got to say, Mai-HiME. I'm a little surprised! You don't normally take this kind of initiative."

Just exiting the train station, announcement of the night's final run ringing in her ears, Mai Tokiha looks around for a moment. Finally, belatedly, she looks up - and spies a certain pale boy on the sign. "...somehow, I'm not even surprised any more. So, what fresh disaster brings you to bother to turn up again?"

Laughter. Mai clenches her fist as Nagi chortles, tossing a book lazily to flop onto his head. "What, no love for your friendly advisor? I was just curious, is all - what could possibly be driving you to pursue this little errand now? It's been daaaaays since you started stomping around - I'd have thought you'd have done something at the warehouse."

Mai glances to one side. A dozen reasons she could give, but...her hand relaxes, just a bit. "...I sincerely don't know if you'd be delighted or dismayed if I'd just gone rampaging with Kagutsuchi. That wasn't the time, or the place - but it was a reminder of just how much she thinks she can get away with. Now...she's got a lot more explaining to do. That's all." With a last glance at the boy, she starts to make her way into the district. It's late, and there's gloom...but she'll have the high ground soon enough.

Nagi watches as Mai walks down the streets - eyes flicking to one side, to where a certain alley is ominously empty - and then finally settles back to read with a smirk. There's a flash of flame, in another dark alley, and he quietly comments to himself. "Well, it might be good practice. Though frankly, I'm not bothered either way, Mai HiME..."


Reality takes hold once more, a Labyrinth shattering into whatever twisted turns it came from. For a moment, Mami might be left at peace - at this hour, this corner of the district is all too quiet.

But. There are flickers of firelight, reflecting off a window. A glint of light where it shouldn't be, as a streetlamp refracts. And finally, a voice - illuminated largely by starlight, shadows failing to hide an Ohtori uniform and a crimson scarf.

"Evening, Tomoe. Would now be a better time for a chat?"

COMBAT: Mai Tokiha transforms into Mai-HiME!

COMBAT: Mami Tomoe transforms into Puella Mami!

<Pose Tracker> Mami Tomoe [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Gradus Prohibitus - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IHyHL_N-rH4

Ordinarily, she would. ...Well, ordinarily there's a good chance she'd have Madoka or Sayaka talking at this point, but as far as Mami's concerned, that's a kind of peace of its own, one more valuable than just being left alone to her hunt most days.

The firelight's reflection draws the blonde's attention first; her eyes slip that way and she readies herself, coiling like a spring for whatever comes next. She takes a breath, and starts to turn... But she recognizes the silhouette.

That doesn't make her relax any. Instead, the hunter of Shibuya rises to her feet, turning as she does. Her shoes sound softly against the asphalt beneath them.

Mami rolls the Grief Seed around in her fingers, making no move to hide it. It glints in the same light.

"Good evening, Tokiha-san," Mami answers back. "I suppose I can make a little bit of time for you. What did you want to discuss?"

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

"Well, that's good to hear. You're hard enough to find as is." With darkening skies behind her, Mai has the high ground - at least, in a literal sense. For a long moment, as distant shoppers mutter about missing their train, she considers relinquishing it. But...

Frankly, if Mami wants to be on equal ground, she'll have to climb up. It's petty, but there it is.

At least there isn't a dragon, and at least her rings aren't burning. That might be a sign of peace - but if it is, it's the only real glimpse. Mai's shoes sound sharply against the roof, as she taps her foot, arms folded. "The terrible thing is, it's getting to be a bit of a list. At least you kept your word back at the warehouse - I'll give you that much. But..."

She falls quiet a moment - looking away from Mami, looking up at the darkened skies. To a twinkling light she can glimpse - perhaps a little brighter? "...if it were just a matter of us not getting along, I'd leave well enough alone - but you just had to hurt a friend of mine." Imperiously, the HiME's gaze returns to earth, to the one in yellow. Her voice rings out a bit louder, a bit more on edge. "Any chance you feel like explaining what the hell you were thinking?"

<Pose Tracker> Mami Tomoe [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

"Am I?" Mami asks lightly, lifting an eyebrow. "We go to the same school. You know where I live. ...And of course it's no secret, if you know who to ask, where I hunt."

Mami is less kind in the moment about where she might go or how she might move, looking up at Mai. As far as Mami is concerned, they could never be on equal ground regardless.

So she doesn't bother. Instead she looks up, continuing to listen, albeit with the mild expression of someone unconcerned thus far. "Of course I did."

Mami doesn't look to the sky as Mai speaks, is still watching with gold eyes when Mai speaks down to her. Behind her gaze, she's considering what she's said. "Ordinarily, I'd decline on principle, with the way you just asked me," Mami points out. "...But in this case, I'll make an exception. Are you asking me to explain my actions at the warehouse, or in hurting your friend?"

"I'll start with your friend. With Shimanouchi-san, it was a disagreement it seems we can't reconcile. I want to change how certain things are done in this city, to better protect the people who live here. She disagreed with my plans. The details are complex, but that's essentially what it runs down to; neither of us can tolerate the way the other intends to operate."

"I doubt that satisfies you. In that matter I'm not satisfied either, but that's how it is. So, is that what you wanted, or was this about the warehouse?"

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

There is, briefly, a retort from the HiME on the rooftop, regarding the difficulty of finding Mami Tomoe. "I know where you ostensibly go to school, but you're more truant than Kuga. As for your home...we talked about that, remember? I didn't want to darken that particular doorstep. So here we are at option number three."

...saying nothing of Mai never wanting to see that expensive apartment again.

For a moment, it seems like things will be civil. Tense, with barbs hidden behind every word, but still civil at least on the surface. They are talking, and there have been no explosions of flame or gunfire, and Mami is actually giving Mai an answer.

A shame it wasn't anything like the answer she was expecting.

Eyes wide with horror, Mai nearly screeches accusation. "Wait, what?! That- what in the world did you do to Eri-chan?!" That glimpse of civility, where Mai's magatama Elements lay dormant, burns away in an instant as flames flare up. It's far easier to see the HiME, now that firelight illuminates her properly, and surprise wars with fury on her face.

"I don't believe you - I'd hoped that I was being uncharitable, but apparently not!" Hands clenched, Mai takes a step to loom over the edge, fiery rings blazing her temper. "I come here, demanding to know what excuse you have for hurting a friend of mine, and apparently I had to be more specific! For the record, I was asking about Tokyo Tower, when you /put Lancelot in the hospital/, but it seems I need to hear about everything else you've been up to!"

<Pose Tracker> Mami Tomoe [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

More truant than... The blonde on the ground actually nods with that one, "Yes, that's fair enough. I don't have much time for school anymore. At least you came alone this time. All right, option number three."

Mami wasn't expecting her answer to be one Mai liked, but she doubly wasn't expecting the complete surprise out of Mai when she answered. Mami looks up at her quizzically, as if asking in the moment what's so shocking to the older girl to begin with. But there's the question...

And there's the light that makes seeing her face easier. Along with the /real/ question. Calmly, Mami waits out the flames... though part of her calm may be the ease with which she could arm herself given the chance, if it became necessary. Or maybe not. She doesn't look concerned, despite Mai's clear power.

What she does look, a shift that's barely perceptible, is tired. Mami sighs, and shakes her head, and then she's back to the way she was again. "All right. One at a time."

"I didn't hurt Shimanouchi-san physically. I assumed you meant emotionally, because obviously we aren't going to be dating, or maybe because it was a stressful encounter. I don't know, I don't keep up with your social life, Tokiha. Next time you think I've hurt one of your friends, you should be more specific."

...That probably sounds prickly.

"As for Lancelot... That's simple. I was taking aim at someone escaping with one of the Keys, who I knew would misuse it. Given what they're capable of and what they represent, misuse of one of those Keys could spell disaster for a lot of people. I don't know why he jumped in front of the shot, but he did." Mami closes her hand around the Grief Seed. "It turned out to be misplaced, wasted effort, and I regret that Lancelot was hurt... But it's not as if I was shooting at him. He was well out of the firing path and not moving towards it when I took aim."

"And the warehouse? You asked me about that already. You threw my own words at me. But it was exactly as dangerous as I meant it to be. I intended to send a message that using Madoka Kaname as /bait/ wouldn't work as a means to get to me, and wouldn't be tolerated."

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

The flames do, eventually, dim - but not to nothing. Blazing rings of anger dwindle to a wary, flickering flame - Mai's heart is nowhere near calm, in spite of how hard her gaze might be. Those occasional flares from golden rings betray her.

She hears Mami out. Mai asked, and it is only...polite...to accept an answer. Nostrils flare at the jab regarding her social life, and the comments about the 'regretful' incident at Tokyo Tower actually elicit a growl. The warehouse is the icing on the cake - and Mai closes her eyes, breathing in deeply.

Is it enough to calm her down? Not even close - but it's enough to bring her down from 'screaming' to 'civilized', in terms of volume if nothing else. "All right. I'll tackle those in order. Great to hear you're happy to throw away Eri-chan's respect so quickly - and would you know it, I guess I had a little left for you too. Past tense, but there you go. Little surprises each day. But don't worry, I'll cut straight to the chase and yell at you for hurting my friends next time, because it certainly sounds like that's where you're headed."

Like a prickly cat, Mai starts prowling along the rooftop - but she's not averting her gaze. "As for Tokyo Tower...you make it sound so academic, pretending there weren't consequences. Would you like to know how it sounded at first? A monster battle at Tokyo Tower, with heroic figures in attendance. And in the aftermath..." Mai turns on her heel, a hand sharply indicating Mami. "Mami Tomoe started shooting allies, as I learned by running into Lancelot in the hospital - Sailor Moon hadn't been seen since then - and five innocent girls were reported dead. I certainly hope you have a few more regrets about that whole affair, because it's pure luck I got more information before tracking you down."

There's a sizzling - the gravel on the rooftop is not friendly to the fire backing Mai's words. "The irony is, I absolutely understand what you mean about the warehouse, and I stand by those words. You were reckless, because you started shooting while the hostages were still -in the room-. Sorry I don't share your opinion of your perfection, but if you'd missed just one of them - just one of those gunmen in the shadows, you might be down a friend right now."

A beat, as Mai folds her arms. "And you really can't afford that, Tomoe."

A breath, but there is no relieved sigh. "You're a menace, standing here - you're full of your own hype, you're putting your friends in danger, and it's getting really hard to bury the fear that you'll endanger my loved ones. So please, if you would, reassure me."

<Pose Tracker> Mami Tomoe [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

There is no similar sign of Mami's power that naturally flares like fire, when she's angry. Her magic responds to a different emotion, and even that is more subtle, requires one to know what to look for--or what to look at.

Maybe that's why Mami has such an easy time concealing her emotions, compared to some magical girls. And conceal she does, as she speaks, as she watches Mai, and as she listens.

She says nothing, offers not so much as a twitch of her expression, as Mai talks about Eri's and her respect.

Her thumb twitches over the Grief Seed at the talk of five innocent girls, though. She can't hide everything, nor the moment where she almost looks past Mai before she pulls herself back.

"First of all... I've protected people in worse than what they faced at the warehouse. I waited until they were out of the line of fire, and until I could take my moment. Do you think I, of all people, don't undersand what people with guns can do to someone? And on top of that I had Sailor Pluto's help. You can tell me it was wrong to kill those men, and I'll accept that. You can tell me what it means for me as a person, and I'll accept it. But don't try to tell me I don't understand my work."

"As for those girls... Yes. Yes, I do. I'm not interested in enumerating them for you, but I have them. But that girl I shot at wasn't an ally. You can decide that that means I think I can pick who's an ally and who isn't, if you want."

"However..." The Seed presses painfully into her hand as she closes it harder, "If you really think /I'm/ the danger... Then you don't understand as much about danger as you think you do. Yes, I've taken extreme measures, but what I do is to protect people! Full of my own hype? You want /reassurance/? /Fine/."

Mami jumps up, kicking off the building behind her and leaping up onto the rooftop beside Mai, landing gracefully--but with no weapons in her hands, just the grief seed's point in the heel of her hand.

"I know the costs of failure. I'm not /new/ to this. Are you aware of what Witches alone do to people? They drive them to suicide, if the person's /lucky/. And that's not all I've faced. Yes, so have you, but I've been doing this for /years/."

It flashes in her eyes, rises in her shoulders that shift from her quicker breathing. "Before you even /started/ at this, before you met that dragon of yours. While you were cooking, I was hunting. While you were spending time with your brother, I was hunting. While you were going to /school/, talking to people, I was hunting! And for almost all of that? I did it myself. Alone. With no help, and no relief."

Blood runs down Mami's hand as she points the finger holding the grief seed straight at Mai, "So don't tell me I'm a /menace/. Don't tell me I don't know how valuable friends are. That's why I'm so 'hard to find', because I'm /busy/. Your loved ones are in no danger from me as long as they aren't endangering others. Your brother's safe. I don't expect you to think I'm a good person, because I don't, but understand that my goal is to keep this city safe, no matter what I have to do."

There's something different in Mami's glare than he other times they've argued, as the jeweled pin on her hat gleams darkly, its setting tarnished. "Now do you have anything /else/ you want to ask me?"

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

While she has the high ground, levelling judgment, Mai stands tall. In spite of the argument, the surrounding area has grown all too quiet; perhaps even those things that dwell in the darkness know better than to get involved here. She doesn't even try to hide her scoff at Mami's description of the warehouse incident.

Mai was there. She has her own opinion. And it's clear they're not going to agree on how safe those hostages were - opinions of Mami's 'perfection' may, indeed, vary.

Perhaps her mutterings a moment later might be heard, perhaps not - "I'm more concerned about who you consider an ally, at this point..." - but it's rendered moot, as Mami joins Mai atop the buildings. The HiME starts - turns hastily to face the Puella Magi - and takes a momentary step back.

On another day, or with another pair, that bitter argument might have found purchase. Those appeals to experience and seniority might have been accepted - or perhaps that eternal refrain of being 'busy' that Mai knows so well. As they learned while exiled by Beryl, Mai Tokiha and Mami Tomoe have more than a few traits in common.

But many of those are traits Mai hates to see in herself. And those claims of authority ring hollow in the fiery-haired girl's ears for a number of reasons. There's warning, perhaps, in the clenching of Mai's hands as fears catch fire in her mind. Even if all those claims can be believed, even if this is earnest or true...

How much would it take for Mikoto to be considered as 'endangering others'?

"Do you really think any of that would let me trust your judgment?!" Flames roar to life on Mai's rings once more, a low humming noise as they begin to spin. Tempers rise, and Mai's feet start to do so as well. "All of that rings hollow, miss 'lone hunter'. Maybe that used to be true, but you haven't been the only one fighting since before I even pulled out that sword! I don't have the slightest bit of faith that you're not already considering my loved ones a 'danger' -"

Tempers, rising, hit a breaking point - and with a scream of fury, Mai brings her rings together. "So don't you dare drag my brother into this!" Fire and metal clash together - there's a chiming ring, and a brilliant flare of furious light, filling the space between them and briefly casting a spotlight on this spot.

COMBAT: Mai Tokiha has used Devoted Scintillation on Mami Tomoe.

COMBAT: Mai Tokiha has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mami Tomoe fails to dodge Mai Tokiha's Devoted Scintillation, taking 7 Fatigue damage! Blind applied to Mami Tomoe!

<Pose Tracker> Mami Tomoe [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

There certainly wouldn't be any more Witch activity here, right now. Even if Mami /has/ felt there's been more lately than before. But Mami's senses find the same quiet, though the Puella Magi hasn't dropped her guard. Some threats are fast enough.

Mami heard it, but chose for the moment to let it pass, to hang onto it for a better opportunity. An argument is as much a fight as a battle, in its own way. But...

If Mami were calmer, she might have recognized, knowing what she does about Mai, that anger and bitterness wouldn't appeal to her. And maybe on some level she did, and this was just more important. But in the moment she hadn't counted on their similarities to do exactly what they just did.

She certainly hadn't thought of Mikoto.

She takes the warning, tensing herself again to move out of the way of the attack she's sure is coming, watching Mai at her answer. "...It was possible," she retorts to Mai's question. But then she's moving.

Mami expects a burst of flame, and starts to dodge even before she sees the attack--but what she expected of Mai isn't what happens. Her eyes are open for the flare of light, and her vision goes white for that set of heartbeats. "You--"

She jumps back, and if her vision is starred, fire at least stands out in it. Throwing out her left hand--the Grief Seed still in her right--Mami throws out familiar magic, and in a burst there are yellow ribbons springing up, coiling to try to trap the HiME in golden magic.

"And I should care about yours?" Mami answers. "Yours is obviously poor. You came here because you were angry I attacked an ally, mistrust me because I killed those men hurting my friends. So your response is... to give me a reason to attack /you/?"

It's strained, as she lifts the same hand to try to clear her vision before she lowers it as a pointless task. "...But I guess you speak the same language as Puella Magi after all."

COMBAT: Mami Tomoe has used Legare on Mai Tokiha.

COMBAT: Mami Tomoe has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mai Tokiha narrowly braces Mami Tomoe's Legare, taking 7 Fatigue damage! Critical Hit! Mai Tokiha's Block ability activates! Mai Tokiha's Parry ability activates! Tangle applied to Mai Tokiha!

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

There is light, invoked in haste and anger. Perhaps, somewhere in her heart, there's a moment of regret that this is how things turned out. A moment's silence, for what was respect and might have been friendship...

But a baleful red star twinkles overhead, bearing witness to this development.

A year ago, Mai fought with fear - uncomfortable at best, flailing wildly while trying to evade harm and dole it out in kind. Tonight, she fights with a resentful fury. Not one inch of ground is relinquished, and she stands firm, bringing burning rings to bear against those ribbons - some are burnt away, the remainder wrapping tightly around an unflinching arm.

"You really think that, don't you? That the rest of us are just waiting for wisdom from the great Mami Tomoe - that if you open fire on someone, they must have deserved it. I still remember what you did to that other Puella Magi..." Mai's arm, wrapped in ribbons, twists so she can grasp a handful - and she lets out a sharp, derisive laugh. "Honestly? I'm surprised you didn't slip up and call this 'your' city. But let's not kid ourselves, Tomoe..."

A deep breath - and then with a tug, Mai is lunging forward. Flames trail in her wake, brought around as a lash of burning force as she closes in. "You've been looking for an -excuse- to attack me for months."

COMBAT: Mai Tokiha has used Remarkable Burn on Mami Tomoe.

COMBAT: Mai Tokiha has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mami Tomoe perfectly dodges Mai Tokiha's Remarkable Burn, taking 0 Fatigue damage! Critical Dodge! Mami Tomoe's Fade ability activates! Mami Tomoe's Flash ability activates!

<Pose Tracker> Mami Tomoe [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Mami feels that regret, but she pushes it down, tells herself that it just is the way it is. It's a way that she's survived fighting for years.

But what would the young girl who brought her ribbons against her first Witch think of Mami today?

That fury is a surprise to Mami now regardless, and it feels easier to push down distracting thoughts in the face of such obvious and primal danger. She lets the fear in the back of her mind eat them, lets the dullness she feels throughout her body cover it over.

Where Mai gives no ground, Mami doesn't seek for now to take it; she uses the opportunity as her opponent burns away most of her ribbons to dart back, to give herself enough room to fight. It used to be that she needed to fight that fear more in battle, even years in.

...Now, it's different.

"No, I don't think that at all. Most of you /don't/ listen to me." She obviously disapproves, talking back. "And what, attacked Akemi-san because she was hanging onto something that could have destroyed the world over numerous times and wouldn't so much as hint to her intentions? She and I have fought more than once, and it's between /us/, not you."

Mai's lunge brings her close before Mami answers her other statement, and the Puella Magi looks to the lash--and leaps above them, somersaulting overhead.

"You think so? My, someone has a high opinion of herself." She flicks her wrist and extends her hand; an entire circle of rifles bursts into being around Mai. They fire with deafening roar and a flash of gold.

"That must be why I struck first tonight," she quips as she starts her fall towards the rooftop.

COMBAT: Mami Tomoe has used Tiro Circle on Mai Tokiha.

COMBAT: Mami Tomoe has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mai Tokiha perfectly counters Mami Tomoe's Tiro Circle, taking 0 Fatigue damage! Critical Counter! Mai Tokiha's Reverse ability activates! Mai Tokiha's Tactician ability activates!
COMBAT: Mai Tokiha's counterattack, Vehement Flare, interrupts, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Mami Tomoe!

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

The past lingers, haunts the present with a more innocent viewpoint. Even filled with fury, though - even in this battle that she frankly started...Mai's steps hold few regrets. She's been through the fire, seen her own nature. And if she's to be honest...there's a little bit of pride.

Mai spins on the spot as Mami deftly leaps above her fiery whip, shouting accusations in her opponent's wake. "You never asked her intentions! Demanded, maybe, but you need to come to terms with the fact that you're not always in the right! You-" And she cuts off, abruptly surrounded by a circle of rifles. A brief scream, as Mai disappears in a storm of fire.

A storm of flames, rather. A host of bullets find no mark. cracking resoundingly against a blazing display of ferocious crimson light - and when it clears, Mai stands unharmed and all the more furious. The rings at her ankles spin to life, and even more flames come at her beckoning.

"A year ago, Tomoe, I would have listened. Would have looked up to you. But since then, I've seen a whole more - and I know a lot better than I did!" She takes flight - launching herself upward at the falling Mami, a fiery bludgeon as her vanguard.

COMBAT: Mai Tokiha has used Impassioned Ignition on Mami Tomoe.

COMBAT: Mai Tokiha has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mami Tomoe fails to dodge Mai Tokiha's Impassioned Ignition, taking 39 Fatigue damage! Critical Hit! Mai Tokiha is Psyched!

<Pose Tracker> Mami Tomoe [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Pride is something Mami is very familiar with, though it didn't always show in her the way it does now. As to her nature...

Those accusations leave a mark of their own; Mami's brow twitches, her lips thinning, as she stares down at her opponent. ...It's almost enough of an answer..

Except for the way that it's pushed away by fire. That storm gets a brief exhalation, one of concentration more even than anger. She starts to answer--but Mai is quick, and that set of flames hits her center-mass. It knocks the wind out of her, sending her sailing that much further upward, until she hits the ground hard on the next building over, rolling to a stop.

She at least is quiet for a moment.

...But then she starts to rise, putting away the grief seed so she can lift herself up on that bloody hand. Her sleeves are torn and half-burned, her body bruised, but she stands back up. "No. You wouldn't have," Mami answers. "Because you /didn't/. You weren't interested."

"Akemi-san's a bad example. You don't know our history... and you /don't/ know Puella Magi. You don't know anything about how our society works." She feels dizzy, but shakes her head. "...And here you are... Charging in. You think you know /better/ than you did!? I doubt it. You're pulling the same thing any of them would do! So don't lie to me and say you would have /listened/!"

The last comes out as a shout, and Mami conjures rifles into both hands, firing and conjuring another in the time it takes to lift it, jumping back up into the air as she unleashes her barrage.

COMBAT: Mami Tomoe has used Tiro Flourish on Mai Tokiha.

COMBAT: Mami Tomoe has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mai Tokiha fails to brace Mami Tomoe's Tiro Flourish, taking 49 Fatigue damage! Critical Hit! Stagger applied to Mai Tokiha!

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

As Mai falls back to solid rooftop, she watches Mami's flight. The HiME lands first, and considerably less brutally. Briefly, that hard gaze softens, that hatred relents. Because...

She wasn't lying. When she'd started out, when an awkward girl stumbled into a jewel auction beset by a monster...there was elegance, and grace, and people to admire. By now, that admiration has largely faded to familiarity, but...she can still remember.

"I would-" Mai misjudges the time for words. She throws up a last-ditch effort, a crimson wall of warding light - but the first spread of bullets shatter it, and the ensuing barrage of fury gives the HiME her turn at hurtling uncontrollably back.

It could have been over. But Mai is just as stubborn as her opponent, rising slowly. The rooftop around her is on fire, both illuminating and masking the worst of her injuries. Some last-ditch effort, or something else?...

She takes a slow breath, re-centring herself. The gaze that looks back at the rifle-wielding Puella Magi is baleful...and also, perhaps, sad. "...you've told me enough about 'Puella Magi' for me to get the gist, and right now I don't care. Hunt all you like, but so long as you act like you can call all the shots on everything else...with an attitude like that, you're a danger to my loved ones."

Distantly, someone watching might comment on 'fireworks' - but as the stars shine down, crimson flames are swirling around the HiME of Kagutsuchi. "And I'm always ready to put myself between them and people like you."

COMBAT: Mai Tokiha has used Rise From The Ashes on Mai Tokiha.

COMBAT: Mai Tokiha has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mai Tokiha accepts Mai Tokiha's Rise From The Ashes, taking 0 Fatigue damage! Critical Hit! Mai Tokiha is Reinforced by Mai Tokiha!

<Pose Tracker> Mami Tomoe [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

A year doesn't seem so long, to Mami. So much has happened since then that it seems to have passed that much sooner.

She hears part of Mai's answer, but doesn't believe it. It could have ended there, just like it could have ended a moment ago, but it didn't, and it doesn't. Mami doesn't expect it, frankly; she just looks on through the fire at Mai, as she centers herself, preparing for the inevitable counterattack. At first, it doesn't come. At first she's waiting for nothing. But...

'...people like you.'

It's like a knife slipped through her ribs, more than anything else; the air just falls out of her as she looks towards the briliantly illuminated Mai Tokiha. 'people like you', Mai said. "I--"

Mami takes a step back, "That's not..." But her answer is weak; Mai may not even be able to hear it over the flames, though she might. Mami swallows, and that pain in her chest doesn't go away. "You don't... You don't /understand/. I'm only..."

She looks back up, and there's something sad in turn in her face, in her eyes. "I only wanted..."

She stops, and shakes her head again. It won't go away, that feeling. But the night seems so clear, and bright.

"I suppose... that's what I am, now. All right."

It happens in the blink of an eye; Mami conjures up a huge gun wider than she is, and fires in a column of golden light.

COMBAT: Mami Tomoe has used Tiro Retort on Mai Tokiha.

COMBAT: Mami Tomoe has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mami Tomoe has cancelled their attack on Mai Tokiha. If there are more attacks that need to be +cancelled, please hold all +attacks until the process is complete.
COMBAT: Mami Tomoe has used Tiro Retort on Mai Tokiha.
COMBAT: Mami Tomoe has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mai Tokiha narrowly counters Mami Tomoe's Tiro Retort, taking 27 Fatigue damage! Mai Tokiha's Reverse ability activates! Mai Tokiha's Tactician ability activates!
COMBAT: Mai Tokiha's counterattack, Sanctum Blaze, partially gets through, doing 14 Fatigue damage to Mami Tomoe!

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

A year is forever, and no time at all. Friends made and lost, conspiracies discovered and torn down, a new school, a new life...and still, the constants in Mai's life remain. Her brother is still waiting for that miracle, and she still has to struggle to try to change that.

Her words were harsh. Intentionally, so - however much she might try to avoid being honest with herself, Mai can't escape that truth. She might not hear Mami's words, but the other signs of the pang she struck are evident. What Mami wanted to do...

They talked about that once, right? For things to get better in her wake.

"...good luck with that." It's whispered to herself - but then there's no time for thoughts of what-could-have-been. The response is swift, brilliant, and brutal - probably not the biggest gun Mai's ever seen Mami use, but easily in the top ten. Golden light flares-

And crimson light flares in response. It starts with a ferocious wall of flames and light, practically roaring with protective fervour. It meets the terrifying shot with a force of its own, buckling from the impact but reflecting shards of it back to pepper the area around the shooter. Caught up in the force, barrier and HiME are driven back...

But they do not break. They stop, and the crimson light at the heart of the flames erupts. It spreads wide, forming a barrier grand enough to protect an entire household, an entire class of friends and family. Shining gold, the marks of magatama twinkle along its surface - a vehement protection the likes of which might have been seen in the skies when Artemis fell.

And then - it moves. Slowly, but rapidly building speed - with Mai herself along for the ride, the ward for the most precious things rushes towards the great gun and its shooter with inexorable force.

"What you need to do...is STOP!"

COMBAT: FINISHER! Mai Tokiha has used Precious Pyre on Mami Tomoe.

COMBAT: Mai Tokiha has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mami Tomoe fails to dodge Mai Tokiha's Finisher, Precious Pyre, taking 105 Fatigue damage! Critical Hit! Mami Tomoe is unable to keep fighting!

<Pose Tracker> Mami Tomoe [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

There are many ways that Mami thought the present would be different, a year ago. But it passed quickly all the same. Sometimes it feels unrecognizeable.

But right in that moment Mami feels the weight of that time, of what could have gone wrong, in Mai's words. They did talk about that once, about things getting better, and Mami is still hoping for that.

What point would there have been in stopping? It's not the first time Mami's had to see this ugly side of herself. No, she had to finish things while Mai was gathering power. Except...

'What you need to do... is STOP!"

It may have been a golden beam, but it wasn't a ray of hope. Her attack pushes back the shield... but her despair doesn't break it. The feeling in that shield is something different.

What Mami sees is her gambit failing, and what she sees is fire and crimson light. She narrows her eyes at it, at its sheer size and obvious power, and takes a step back, preparing to jump. It should be easy, as slowly as it started, but it's not. She finds she can't move quickly enough, can't throw herself out of the way, and finally her golden eyes widen as it gets


in front of her face.

The gun incinerates immediately, unravelling into the ribbons in which it was made and burning up to ashes. Mami is luckier--or perhaps not so lucky. Her formerly gun-holding arm buckles, twisting painfully before the light crashes into her. It /strikes/ more than it burns, though disappears briefly in its size and in what flames there are, knocked backward by the sheer force of it. There's a choked cry that cuts off, the main sign for a brief moment that she's there amidst it at all.

But when it passes, there's Mami Tomoe, laid out on the rooftop, staring upward in a daze.

It doesn't last as long as she think it does, the impact or the aftermath as the attack fades. She's injured, certainly, but her injuries aren't especially worse than what the battle itself inflicted on her; torn sleeves, bruising. Her arm hurts, but she can lift it as she tries to stand.

Tries, and fails at first, exhausted. "It's... it's not..."

It can't be over.

But it is. The Puella Magi sinks back down the rest of the way to the ground, and knows she's not ready yet to stand. What would be the point? Now that she's almost ready to stand back up, she doesn't bother.

"I-I don't..."

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

The past is the past. Right now, we're here.

The light is dim. There's damage, certainly, to both buildings; the lips of the roofs clipped away, leaving only a strangely clean curve that's as much melted as sheared. The origin rooftop is still burning, in places, but fires fueled by magic and introspection are quick to fade. The destination rooftop is worse off; an air conditioning unit is reduced to a few stubs of metal, the roof as a whole feels flatter than it did before, and the fringes are again faintly burning from heat that seemed much greater than what struck the target of Mai's wrath. Mercifully, concrete burns poorly, and those fires will fade in time.

But while they burn, they illuminate the figure standing over Mami Tomoe. The Ohtori uniform is damaged - scorch marks, holes, a tear in one sleeve. Salvageable, perhaps, after some cursing. The scarf, strangely, seems to have survived more-or-less unscathed. And Mai Tokiha herself...

She's been better. Favouring one arm, and one leg trembling a bit - but at a glance, at least a little better off than her opponent. There was plenty of time to take action as Mami lay stunned, but instead...after picking herself up, Mai seems to have simply stood watching the stars. As the Puella Magi stirs, Mai tenses with a quick glance - but finally lets out an exasperated sigh, looking away.

"I seriously can't believe you. I'm going to make this plain, Tomoe - stay away from my friends." Steel in her voice; this isn't a polite request. After taking another deep breath, she manages to bring it down to a mildly imperious tone. "Frankly I think you'd be better off if you stuck to the hunting and left well enough alone, but I've no illusions about you following that advice. No illusions left about you at all, really. Just leave me and my loved ones alone."

She spares one more glance at Mami, eye caught by that gem on her hat - but then spins on her heel, striding toward the roof's edge. Toward, and right off - there's a flash of flame from the alley to slow her descent, but she swiftly makes her way out of the shopping district. More important things to worry about - like getting back to the island with the trains done for the night, and sneaking past dorm security...bigger concerns.

And finishing the last page in his book, Nagi looks up from his new lounging perch atop a streetlamp. "...well, no worries, Mai HiME. I'm sure you'll get the knack eventually." He snaps the cover shut with a smirk, and in an instant there is no one there.

<Pose Tracker> Mami Tomoe [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

At first, of course, Mami isn't entirely aware that Mai is /there/. At first, at least. But she can see well enough that Mai is still standing, remembers that of course she would be. Her attack failed.


Her attempt to bring herself back up feels pathetic to Mami, after Mai starts to talk. She wants to explain, but what have explanations done for her yet? Maybe she could have talked this down, if she'd bothered to actually try. Or maybe...

Mami doesn't answer Mai's order. She doesn't resemble much the way she looked earlier, and her hat?

The gem is almost completely dark.

'No illusions left about you at all, really.'

Somehow, that hurts more than the flames of Mai's attacks or even the sheer impact of her shield did. A person like her. No illusions at all.

Mami hears Mai leave, hears her depart in flames. She manages almost a laugh. "People... Like me." Maybe it should have been obvious. She didn't think Mai would kill her.

The laugh doesn't make another appearance. Her clothes shimmer, back into her own uniform, untouched and unmarked, while she's still on the ground. It's a simple motion, pulling out the grief seed, setting it against her soul gem which materializes in her hand while she stays on the ground. She knows she's almost out of magic. It's a brilliant light to look at, what light there is after she's set the two together. Somehow, it doesn't make her feel any better.

She changes her gem back into a ring and sits up, hugging her knees. "I... I guess I wasn't..."

It starts with a sniffle, but ends with Mami crying on that rooftop, without even healing herself. She doesn't know how long it ends up being.

She thinks about what might have been... but also about a young blonde girl, going into her second Labyrinth.

'Stay away from my friends. Just leave me and my loved ones alone.'

The wounds of the battle hurt, but she's fought battles before. A loss like this is different. And losing her own illusions when she thought she had none left is more painful still.